The quizzes tend to follow trends: none of them employ names for the characters involved, referring to them by pronouns, parenthetical clarification i. There are five arguably four, given that one is an extension of another quizzes, despite the fact that the collection is titled Octet—something that Wallace mentions in the last quiz. The quiz is dense with emotion while simultaneously containing enough hard facts e. The quiz details a scenario wherein Y, who potentially sees X as his only friend, vaguely angers X to great extent. This unclear action causes X to condemn Y to a frightening degree and thus provoking X to assault Y verbally and, eventually, physically.
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The quizzes tend to follow trends: none of them employ names for the characters involved, referring to them by pronouns, parenthetical clarification i. There are five arguably four, given that one is an extension of another quizzes, despite the fact that the collection is titled Octet—something that Wallace mentions in the last quiz. The quiz is dense with emotion while simultaneously containing enough hard facts e.
The quiz details a scenario wherein Y, who potentially sees X as his only friend, vaguely angers X to great extent. This unclear action causes X to condemn Y to a frightening degree and thus provoking X to assault Y verbally and, eventually, physically.
The quiz is very complex—so much so that Wallace ends it with a clear recognition of the overwhelming ambiguity and thus its poor ability to act as a pop quiz. Accordingly, it does not end with a question like most of the other quizzes. The third quiz 7 is a story of divorced parents fighting over the custody of their child.
The family gives the wife the ultimatum that if the man the father does not get primary custody of the child, the trust fund will not be granted to the child. Accordingly, the mother surrenders primary custody to the father so that the child may have the trust fund.
However, X really has not much to say about the man and, realizing this amongst the circle of intensely emotional anecdotes and nostalgia, becomes once again uncomfortable and anxious.
The second question explains how X has, this whole time, been hiding his hatred for the father-in-law from his wife as one would expect. X explains to Y that he does not feel any comfort in his wife not knowing that X hated the father-in-law, but instead, angry at her for not realizing that X has hated the father-in-law the whole time. But why does any of this matter? Why do you care? Why should you read Octet over any other short story?
The first reason is, as Wallace might say, self evident. The first reason is that Octet will at least for the first few quizzes directly bring your morals and rationale under the microscope. The first quiz with the drug addicts is a logical puzzle and arguably has little to do with sentiment. The next quizzes will challenge your ability to remain objective while considering a case study of sorts. Can you read the second quiz in which X abuses the passive Y without feeling like you are rooting for either one?
Can you read the third without resenting the arrogant, spoiled father? Can you read the fourth without resenting X or any other character for that matter? In other words, can you consider emotions without being emotional? It is overwhelmingly easy to subconsciously manifest opinions of the characters in question and their motives, and Wallace is aware of this. Octet will force you to consider life as an outside observer, and challenge you to do so without feeling investment in the crafted thought experiments.
The second reason is that Octet is pure post-modernism, and, one may argue, post-post-modernism. Without providing a lengthy discourse as to what exactly these terms may mean, they are simply described as criticisms of present day values and ideals, and criticisms of those criticisms, respectively.
Throughout Octet, Wallace creates scenarios that all seem very feasible. He then asks the reader to respond to them, and his presentation of this challenge forces the reader to do so as objectively and rationally as possible. Wallace intentionally challenges ideals through utilitarianism e. Up until the final quiz, Wallace provides textbook examples of post-modernist literature. In the final quiz, Wallace deconstructs post-modernism entirely. Wallace identifies the absurdity and complexity of trying to write post-modernist literature without trying to seem pretentious or as though he is creating convoluted scenarios for the sake of contrived artistry.
In this sense, Wallace comments on post-modernism in the same way a post-modernist would—thus, for lack of a better term, creating a post-post-modernist piece, which is essentially the primary driver of the artistic movement New Sincerity.
Accordingly, what really drives the final quiz as a proper conclusion to the series of quizzes is that it indirectly deconstructs the forced tone of the prior quizzes. Wallace personally views post-modernist cynicism and irony as harmful or destructive to culture and society, and so, by providing examples of the things he despises so much, Wallace elegantly sets himself up to tear down the post-modernist construct.
Wallace provides hyper-sentimental scenarios through a rational viewpoint in order to intentionally prove how post-modernist cynicism and irony can often times harm a story. Octet is an essential short story for any avid reader or writer, and, if I may say so without sounding overly-enthusiastic, any human being.
Shitty First Drafts
Sign up for our newsletter to get submission announcements and stay on top of our best work. He once forced me to do cocaine by shoving it inside me during sex. Wallace-recommending men are ubiquitous enough to be their own in-joke. Small, liberal arts colleges are spawning ground for Wallace fans; mine was no exception. These guys persevere after graduation.
A brief survey of the short story: David Foster Wallace
Wallace photographed circa It was a horror show. It is possible to see Wallace as an artist who grew less certain of what he was doing the longer he did it, but at the same time becoming increasingly certain that this uncertainty was where he should focus his energy. It is this decision, and the scrupulousness with which Wallace pursued it, that can make areas of his work so tricky to engage with.
David Foster Wallace
Having sat through graduate courses on Postmodernism and Critical Theory, I know the feeling—really—and yet I find Wallace to be one of the more approachable, humanistic purveyors of post-post-whatever meta-fictional experimentation. We get 4 such quizzes, numbered two are labelled 6 and 6A. Number 8 is skipped. And 9 begins with a direct address to the reader: You are, unfortunately, a fiction writer. Because now it occurs to you that you could simply ask her.